Gardiner’s Town Board members got their first peek at a tentative town budget for 2021 at the October 6 workshop meeting. As of presstime, the document had not yet been posted on the town website, so no hard numbers were available. Supervisor Marybeth Majestic cautioned that it was the roughest of drafts, showing no changes from the wish lists submitted by each of the town’s department heads. However, she was able to predict that this year’s 1.56 percent state cap on property tax increases “will be exceeded.”
Majestic said that she had instructed all department heads not to ask for any staff salary increases, and that all but one had fully complied. However, she agrees with building inspector/code enforcement officer Andy Lewis’ assessment that a new part-time position needs to be created for an assistant code enforcement officer. Due to increased demand for building permits, as many residents have been using their homebound time during the pandemic to undertake renovation projects or convert extra rooms into short-term rental accommodations, “The Building Department is slamming,” she said. “It’s way more than one person can handle.”
Another new line in the 2021 budget will be a $10,000 allocation to the Open Space Commission to cover the monitoring of town-held conservation easements.
On the revenue side, “There has been a 20 percent decrease in state aid.” The supervisor said that, while Gardiner’s General Fund doesn’t rely much on New York State subsidies, the Highway Fund will be severely impacted by the reduction in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding – estimated at about $80,000 in 2021, down from $102,000 in 2020.
In the draft version, “No money has been allocated from Unexpended Funds to offset taxes,” Majestic noted. Councilman Warren Wiegand urged that the board try to come up with some creative accounting approaches when it holds its special meetings to hammer out a final budget. “We really ought to drill down on the reserves this year,” he said. “Last year you did a good job on paying for the pavilion out of the Tax Stabilization Fund. That’s my model.”
The Town Board agreed to hold its first budget meeting – in person, socially distanced – on Friday, October 16 at Town Hall. Additional special meetings are likely to follow, with the goal of adopting a final budget by the November 10 regular meeting.